10 June 2010

My Rejected Novel

Well, it's official. My novel, which took me three years to write and an additional three years to edit, has been rejected. No, not just rejected. Rejected soundly. I really never anticipated this day. I thought for sure it was destined for the NY Times Bestseller's List. Alas, it is not to be.

Longtime readers of The Shark Tank will not be surprised to learn that I've spent much of my adult life writing an intricate romance novel. While I put my heart and soul into the book, the editor at Harlequin was unimpressed. I've read the rejection letter nearly forty times now, and I get angrier with each pass. What do they want out of me? Here, read the letter and see what you think:

Ignoring for a moment the unnecessary vitriol, let's just take the points she makes in the second paragraph. She says my novel needs improvement in description, character development, dialogue and she apparently thinks the love scenes are horrible as well. I have to admit, after reading the letter, I began to have internal doubts. I went back and read my manuscript, thinking that freshly opened eyes would see the work differently. If anything, however, I thought the book was even stronger than I remembered. But I have to take into consideration my possible bias. That's why I'm turning to you, faithful readers. I encourage you to tell me the truth. I've posted excerpts from my book, each of them demonstrating the aspects of fiction Judith Esterman seems to think need so much improvement. Read them, form your own opinion, and let me know what you think.

Description: From Page 38

Eddie thought she was the picture of loveliness as she stepped out onto the balcony. She was wearing a dress that was almost the exact color green of his poop when he'd spent the last several days drinking grape NeHi. Her hair was a mixture of gold and silver and copper, all flowing at once like a mineshaft had exploded, except there was no sign of a dead canary. Her chin was restful and deep, like the thoughts of wise men from centuries past. He wanted to examine her more closely, smell her, see if there were any small bits of orange ear wax on her inner lobe.

Character Development: From Page 99

From the moment Gretchen met him, she knew he would be trouble. Though she had no way of knowing this, she suspected he had been involved in terrorism in his youth. Perhaps he had been born to Al-Qaeda parents, living on the east end of New York City. Maybe his father was called Abdul Shariik and his mother had been a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. All of these things, actually, she guessed correctly, as these were all true facts from his life and he was as evil as they come.

Dialogue: From Page 145

"Do you think our love will last forever?" asked Gretchen.

"It will last as long as the days, and even longer," said Eddie.

"Like 24 hours?" asked Gretchen.

"No, I meant like the end of time. So very long. You see, I was speaking metaphorically. Do you want some fish?"

Gretchen thought a moment. "Why couldn't you have just said, 'yes'? No I don't want any fucking fish, do I look like a Chinaman?"

"omg, you idiot, I meant to eat," Eddie said, running out of patience.

"Oh," she said, "then I guess so."

Love Scene: Page 390

They exchanged a knowing glance when they both reached for the last shrimp at the same time. He picked up the shrimp and dangled it above her wanting mouth. Gently caressed her cheek with the jumbo crustacean. She bit at it once, twice, and finally got it on the third try. Butter squirted out and stained Eddie's jeans.

"I guess I'll have to take these off," he murmured.

"Oooh, yes," she said, in between chewing her shrimp.

He took off his jeans and his underwear and approached her with his growing ding dong.

"Let me get the fly swatter," she said, and ran for the utility room. He sat down on the couch and waited, wondering idly if that guy he saw on the train that morning had really been his father. But no, his father had died many years before. It must have been an imposter.

"I'm baaack," Gretchen said. She had a fly swatter in her right hand and she had removed all of her clothing.

"You're naked," he said, giggling to himself.

"That's right," she said and smacked his wiener with the fly swatter until the local news came on.

Maybe I'll try sending it in to Simon & Schuster.


Roger Muffin Stuff said...

Well, the line about green-poop dress was pretty bad.

But it depends on what angle you are going for, if it's meant to be a serious passionate novel. Then yeah, kinda fail. But as a kinky quirky funny novel, it seems awesome.

But honestly, I would read it ;D

mama-face said...

LOL. That is my honest opinion.

I'm sorry for your loss.

"Dear Bad Writer"... omgee... I can't stop re-reading this.

foxy said...

I'm ready to read the entire thing. I think you had me at "exact color green as his poop" - which is very informative.

Screw Harlequin.

Eric said...

I think it will be best if I try to tackle the Cliffs Notes version first, then see the film, then work backwards to the original.

Gorilla Bananas said...

The last passage reminds me of Enid Blyton's love letters (she called the wiener "a choo-choo train" of course). Maybe you should write adult versions of her 'Famous Five' novels?

Shawn said...

Roger: The green poop line is a metaphor for the constipated stage that all romances go through. I should have thought that was obvious.

Mama-face: Well, I'm glad my misery can bring you so much mirth!

Foxy: It's 916 pages, which I can mail to you if you pay for shipping.

Eric: I was so hoping to see a film made. It would have been beautiful.

Gorilla: Interesting. I have thought about updating the Paddington Bear books for a more sexualized readership.

obladi oblada said...

Im with Foxy...I want to read more. I think Judith P..or whatever her name is is a bitch. She obviously doesnt realize that your novel comes to life with color as you talk about the greeness of this and the orangness of that...oh and yellow. The dead canary is surely yellow. There is just no accounting for people's taste.

Anonymous said...

Hold the phone!

Were you eavesdropping on me and husband?

That "dialogue" sounds very familiar!

And sorry you got rejected, now go brand yourself with a big capital "L" on yer forehead!


Chris@Knucklehead! said...

I'm just going to skip over the "pretend this was a real novel that you actually submitted" component of this post and get right to the real heart of the matter.

Dude, this is brilliant humor writing. The concept alone is pure genius, and the excerpts are hysterical.

Kudos, my friend, I am humbled.

Candice said...

Awesome post.

Send me the damn book. I'm all hot thinking about the green turd.

Shawn said...

Obladi: Exactly. If you've read Harlequin's output, you'd see that my prose is right in line with the best of it.

Quirky: Yeah, I probably will. Everyone should know.

Chris: Never insinuate my posts are anything less than 100% true. And thanks!

Candice: You got it. I'll even autograph it for you if you promise not to sell it on eBay.

Vodka and Ground Beef said...

OH. MY. GOD. This is the funniest thing I've read in a long time.

I mean . . . I'm very sad for your rejection.

But the dialogue of January Kisses really moved me. And the descriptions . . . I don't know what that assole at Harlequin is looking for, but this, my friend, is a goldmine.

Can you send me a copy of January Kisses? I'd like to read it desperately.

Shawn said...

Vodka: That's affirmative. I'll even throw in the bonus deleted chapter, especially crafted to use the word "gurgling" over 96 times.

Jeff said...

One of your best, Shawn. Brilliant writing. I think they're missing out in not signing you to a multi-book contract.

A few years ago I worked in a bookstore and discovered there was a romance novel titled: "Taming The Beastly M.D." No joke.

Shawn said...

Jeff: I appreciate your support and fully agree. Also, I've added "Taming the Beastly M.D." to my Amazon wish list.

Cassie said...

Love and a fly swatter. What's wrong with that? I mean, besides the fact that he's a terrorist...his father is dead....and his poop is green...sounds like a winner to me!

Insana D said...

Crikey, It's like you have been hiding in the alley behind my flat and watching my husband and I in the throes of our carnal affections. The fly swatter thing, that was my idea and HE LOVES IT! Really really loves it. It reminds him of his mother (not yet dead but longing, pining for his dead father) who used to swat him as an infant every time she opened his diaper and his dingy dongy (affectionate name for his ding dong) would pop up like a prarie dog. She'd whack that dingy dongy with a fly swatter and coo, "Get that thing back where it came from or so help me!".

I'm honored that you would use our lovemaking scene in your book but perplexed that it was rejected. It's so hot that even now while I think about it, I start to squeal like Ned Beatty in "Deliverance".

Evil Panda said...

you had me at "the exact color green of his poop."

San Pepe Julian said...

well I couldn't agree more with the editor, maybe the letter was a little harsh, but judging by the excerpts you took, your novel is among the worst things I've ever read

demxod8 said...

Your rejection letter was posted over at Oddee, so I followed it here. And I'm glad I did, the excerpts from your novel are the funniest things I've read in weeks. Thank you, sir.

Venom said...

Oh man, brilliant. I've been away for a while, but I'm catching up and, now that I AM back, hoping to see more Shark Tank soon.
p.s. San pepe julian? Ppppphhhhhttt.

Anonymous said...

I'd never read a Harlequin, but I would read this. Stunningly awkward, funny and a bit uncomfortable.

delfeld said...

"his growing ding dong"

I read this at work. Thanks a lot. At some point or another, you have to consider the atmosphere where your posts are going to be read, and be considerate. Language like this is really unacceptable. I'm considering legal action with my assistant. On you. Not legal action against my assistant.

I'm not sure I understand "relentless" tripe, though any amount of tripe does seem endless. Pretty nasty stuff. So maybe Judith meant to say "endless tripe".

I do have to admit that it's nice to get a personal rejection from a publisher. Now you have a contact - yay! But I don't know how much stock you can put in her; she needlessly capitalized, "forget", so is she really that good of an editor? Or is that how you do things in a closing.

Anyway, good luck on selling your book. You'll be hearing from my lawyer, and my assistant's lawyer, and my assistant, probably, and me, of course, unless advised otherwise by my attorney. And my assistant, too - advised otherwise. Otherwise than contacting you. Someone is going to get in touch with you, and you won't like it.

C4NUCK said...

sorry, but i agree with harlequin...

Anonymous said...

Is this your first rejection? Well, whether it is or not you need to buck up and put a cup on. Being a writer sucks. Period. Like Irritable Bowel Syndome.

Now, to your question. The poop metaphor, it's a cloudy one. I get it, but that doesn't mean it's a good metaphor. Plus, scatological humor doesn't go down well with houses these days. And it's not that great a metaphor. Important rule of writing: Kill your darlings. You need to slit this one's thoat. The rest of the description is lacking too. "Exploded" "mineshaft" the chin simile, all of this is predictable language, especially exploded. It's blah. I formed my own picture of her. I didn't pay any attention to the description.

Character development I would need to see more than a paragraph. I don't know if this is intended to be satirical, sarcastic, etc. By the other samples, I'm guessing so. Still, there's no development. Either Gretchen is a really good guesser, or you've wasted 200 words and not told me shit. I just got 200 words of sarcasm or amateur satire. If this is true, this is not development, this is just telling me about his parents and where he grew up.

I don't understand how she would misconstrue, "Do you want some fish" to mean anything other than, "Do you want to eat fish". I also don't get OMG in dialogue. I can tell you for certain that this pissed the editor off. Write, "fuck" or "shit" or "lowdy lowdy" instead of AIM speak. But again, I would have to see more dialogue.

The love scene cracked me up. Here, you do come into your own. The growing ding-dong and smacking his penis with a fly swatter are hilarious.

Based on what you have here, I see why it was rejected. Hopefully you don't take it personally. A writer's not a writer until he or she gets their first mean rejection.

All of this said, I wouldn't mind reading this and giving you advice if you wanted a completely new, unbiased, set of eyes to look over it.

Anyway, good luck.

sylvia said...

This is hysterical. The serious comments are even better.

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious! I am literally laughing out loud. It's like reading a comedy instead of watching it in the theater. Maybe try making it into a screen play?

rochemat said...

This is totally hilarious, and I thought the "poop" reference was funny, although I would have used a more "Harlequinish" word or phrase. I'd love to read the rest of the book. I'm sure it would give me a nice warm feeling like pee running down my leg.

Denzell said...

The descriptions do need some improvement. You gotta improve the pacing of the novel too.

Other than that, it's actually a pretty good read. Go look for a publishing house that specializes in humorous romance.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this Judith is an asshole. She sounds like just some troll/griefer on a blog.
As for what you wrote, I seriously don't get it but I'm not about to insult it.

Anonymous said...

This novel is pretty awesome. But it's not romance. It's comedy. It's a parody of the romance genre--that's why this lady is threatened.

Get a publisher with a sense of humor.


Lisa Conmara said...

More than anything I am terribly amused at the comments.

But also wanted to say if I don't get to read this whole novel my world is lesser for it.

Thanks for the laugh xx